Huskers Advance by Beating Buffs

Dallas - The Nebraska women's basketball team had to overcome a strong first-half start and a furious second-half rally by Colorado, but the sixth-seeded Huskers made the plays down the stretch to defeat the 11th-seeded Buffaloes, 67-59, in the first round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship at Reunion Arena on Tuesday night.

Nebraska, which posted its fifth victory in the past six games, improved to 17-11 on the season and advanced to Wednesday's second round to play third-seeded Texas A&M at 8:30 p.m.

First-team All-Big 12 guard Kiera Hardy led a balanced Husker attack with 13 points, while Jessica Gerhart added double figures with 10 points and seven rebounds.  LaToya Howell and Kelsey Griffin each added nine points, while Danielle Page contributed eight points, seven rebounds and a season-high four blocked shots, and TK LaFleur pitched in eight points and four boards off the bench.

Nebraska Coach Connie Yori admitted the Husker victory was not pretty, but in tournament basketball a win is a win.

"We know we can play better, but I thought our effort was very good," Yori said. "Our execution was not very good and I didn't think we ever got into any rhythm offensively all night. But we played hard and got the loose balls and advanced."

Colorado got off to a strong start, jumping to a 19-12 lead after Yari Escalera's three-pointer with 9:30 left in the first half, before the Huskers rallied. Nebraska's freshmen scored eight straight points to ignite an 8-0 run and give the Huskers their first lead of the game at 20-19 with 6:45 left in the half. Griffin started and ended the run, while LaFleur hit NU's only three-pointer of the first half and added a free throw less than 30 seconds later.

CU stopped the run and regained a three-point lead at 27-24, before the Huskers closed the half strong. Gerhart hit a pair of jumpers, including a 17-footer with two seconds left in the half, as NU scored seven of the final eight points of the half and carried a 31-28 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Howell, who had a big first half with three points, five rebounds and five assists, kept the Huskers rolling to start the second half, knocking down her first three-pointer since Jan. 11 against Missouri.  Gerhart added another jumper to push NU's lead to 39-30 with 17:28 left in the game.

Jasmina Ilic, who led all scorers with 24 points, connected on back-to-back shots including a three-pointer to cut the NU lead to 39-35, before the Huskers answered with a 7-0 run capped by Griffin's three-point play to give NU its first double-digit lead at 46-35 with 13:53 left.

But the Buffs battled back with four straight points to trim the Husker lead to just seven points with 11:57 to play. CU continued to chip away at the NU lead until Caley Dow scored three points in a 30-second span to give the Buffaloes the lead back at 54-53 with 4:45 to play.

Nebraska then came up with some big shots and some big plays down the stretch to stop the CU rally and secure the win. Chelsea Aubry, who finished with six points and four rebounds, hit her only three-pointer in five attempts on the night to give NU the lead back at 56-54 with 4:23 left.

A minute later, Hardy connected on her second three-pointer of the night after a wild scramble to push the Huskers' lead back to five points at 59-54 with with 3:30 left.

That was the last field goal for the Huskers, who hit 8-of-14 free throws in the final 2:54 to wrap the win.

With the victory, the Huskers advance to the second round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship for the second consecutive season and will face third-seeded Texas A&M on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. in a game televised nationally by Fox Sports Net.


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